January 14, 2022

‘I want to help’

Tragic deaths, faith lead artist to paint portraits for those suffering sudden loss

In the adoration chapel of her parish, St. Alphonsus Liguori in Zionsville, Ind. (Lafayette Diocese), where she prays daily, D. Anne Jones holds a portrait she painted through her organization, Face to Face Fine Art, of Deb Perry, the late wife of Deacon Tim Perry, who ministers at the parish. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

In the adoration chapel of her parish, St. Alphonsus Liguori in Zionsville, Ind. (Lafayette Diocese), where she prays daily, D. Anne Jones holds a portrait she painted through her organization, Face to Face Fine Art, of Deb Perry, the late wife of Deacon Tim Perry, who ministers at the parish. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

D. Anne Jones knew she wanted to use her gift of painting portraits to help others in some way.

“I was talking to a friend who worked for [the non-profit] Flashes of Hope taking pictures of kids with cancer, and a lot of the time those were the last photos a family would have of their child,” she recalled. “I decided if I did a non-profit, I could paint portraits at no charge and raise money to fund them.”

But it took tragedy to solidify the idea.

“Within eight weeks in 2012, I lost my closest sister, my mom and my husband,” said Jones, 61.

“I was in shock,” said Jones, a member of St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in Zionsville, Ind. (in the Lafayette Diocese).

But from her loss, Jones identified who she wanted to paint portraits of and for whom she would create them.

“I paint portraits at no charge for families or individuals who lost a loved one to a sudden, unexpected or tragic death,” Jones said of her non-profit organization, Face to Face Fine Art.

“My goal is to help aid in their grieving process and commemorate and honor the deceased by creating a lasting memory of their life.”

She says her effort is “an outlet that became a calling,” one that God is very much a part of.

Losing her daughter in 2019, becoming guardian of her granddaughter and moving to a new part of the state in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic proved only to strengthen Jones’ faith and her calling.

Her journey actually began decades before, when she realized she had a gift for creating art.

‘Something clicked, and it made sense’

Jones discovered her artistic talent at a young age.

“I began pursuing art and especially portraiture in seventh grade when my art teacher told my parents I had some ability for it,” she said. “I was 12 when I began doing portraits.”

It was in art class where she met her husband, Christopher.

“I was 15 when we started dating,” she said. “We were together 36 years and married for 32.” Together they had five children.

Christopher was Catholic. Jones, who was baptized and raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, was with him at Mass in Mishawaka, Ind., one Sunday in the early 1990s when she heard the priest ask from the pulpit, “Are you looking for a new church home?”

She felt a nudge and contacted Gus Zuelke, the parish’s religious education director.

“The one thing he talked about was the Eucharist becoming God,” she said. “I never understood the point of communion in the fundamentalist church. When I learned the whole truth about the bread and wine actually becoming the body and blood of Christ, something clicked, and it made sense!”

Jones was soon welcomed into full communion of the Church. Their children started going to Catholic school, and Christopher finally received the sacrament of confirmation.

She now spends time every day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Alphonsus Liguori Church, just north of Indianapolis.

The couple lived most of their married life in northern Indiana, where Jones worked as a stay-at-home mom. She took portraiture classes her mother-in-law paid for “just so I could get out of the house.”

Those classes and the time Jones spent studying under internationally acclaimed Viennese artist, Alice Schlessinger, helped her hone her skills.

In 2002, she started traveling to art and craft shows within a reasonable radius of her northern Indiana home as a vendor 46 weekends a year.

“I probably did up to 1,000 heads a year during that time,” she said.

‘I had no one else to turn to’

By 2011, Jones was getting burned out from working the weekend craft show circuit. That’s when she started considering how she could use her gift in a non-profit capacity.

That November, her closest sister, Lisa, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“We had raised our kids together on the telephone,” Jones recalled. “We’d talk a couple of times a day.”

Lisa died on March 17, 2012. It was too great a loss for their mother to handle.

“Mom was a miracle,” said Jones. “She had pancreatic cancer for 22 years. Originally, they told her she’d live five years.

“The last two years she was on a feeding tube. She was in and out of skilled care, assisted living, the hospital. When my sister Lisa died, she was done and just wanted to go. Seven weeks later, my mom died. We buried her the day before Mother’s Day.”

But Jones still found cause for joy. One of her and Christopher’s children would be married just seven days later on May 19.

“That morning of the wedding, my husband did not wake up,” said Jones. “He was totally fine the night before. We went to bed, told each other we loved each other, and I found him dead at 7 in the morning.”

She leaned heavily on her faith after the loss of three loved ones in just eight weeks.

“I don’t know how anyone gets through the loss of anyone major in life without the Lord,” Jones said. “It’s like all the people I was closest to were taken. I had no one else to turn to but the Lord.”

Through her loss and through prayer, Jones found the cause she was looking for to create a non-profit. And in the process, her own heart healed.

“I really believe that if you are hurt and in pain, if you can do something for somebody else, it helps take your mind off your own pain.”

With her non-profit Face to Face Fine Art, those who lose a loved one suddenly, unexpectedly or tragically can submit an application for a free painting of the loved one they lost. The applications are reviewed and voted upon by the board of directors.

“If there’s funding, they OK as many as they can,” Jones explained, noting that it costs $400 to make a portrait, or $450 if a frame is requested. “If there’s not enough money, then they might approve an application, but it will be a while before the portrait is made.”

Initially, painting the portraits was difficult for Jones.

“At first, I would cry when I painted them,” she said. “I realized that I was feeling the pain that family was feeling.”

‘It definitely helped us heal’

Since 2013, Jones has created more than 200 portraits through Face to Face Fine Art from photographs sent by individuals and families.

One of her early projects was for Jim Darlington, who lost his wife Linda in a car accident in 2013.

“I had an 11- and 9-year-old then,” he recalled. “We hung [the portrait] in a prominent place in the house. It gave us permission to talk about [Linda], not forget her, and to go through the grieving process. It’s still hanging there today in the same place.”

Darlington calls himself a “big supporter” of Jones and her non-profit.

“It’s hard for me to put into words how it impacted us,” he said. “It definitely helped us heal and grieve and get past the loss of my wife and the kids’ mother.

“I think it’s a tremendous thing she’s doing. I think it’s valuable and I continue to support her financially today, to pass along the opportunity for other people to get that kind of remembrance.”

Jones’ non-profit work has even touched those overseas. In 2016, she and Zuelke, who is now vice-president of Face to Face Fine Art’s board of directors, went to the Holy Land.

“Gus had the idea to go and do a peace retreat in the West Bank,” she said. “I made18 portraits for Israelis and Palestinians who had lost someone in the conflict there. That was the highlight of my life. And it was 2016, [which Pope Francis proclaimed] the Year of Mercy.”

‘A source of healing and joy’

In 2019, tragedy again struck. Jones’ daughter, Leah, died unexpectedly, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter, Emma. Jones became her legal guardian.

In addition to seeking healing through her portrait projects, she also published a book that year. Called Balm for the Heart: My Journey Through Loss and Bereavement, it is described on Amazon.com as telling “how God used [Jones’] losses to draw her closer to himself and to enter into a more intimate relationship with him.”

Jones, who had been living in northern Indiana, looked for housing in Zionsville so Emma could remain in her school. She moved there in February 2020.

Then the pandemic struck.

“I was in a new town, isolated, not knowing anyone,” said Jones.

Once again, her faith and her devotion to her non-profit cause got her through. She took a part-time job for a while, but recently quit.

“I wasn’t home for Emma,” said Jones. “And I feel like I’m supposed to put my resources and energy into Face to Face.”

She said she finds “a lot of joy in helping other people through these portraits,” and prays over each one asking that “God will make them a source of healing and joy.”

Face to Face Fine Art was created from pain. But from that pain has come hope and heart-mending for Jones and others.

“God let me experience all this [suffering] so I can have empathy for other people,” said Jones. “And I want to help.”

(For more information about Face to Face Fine Art, to donate or to find a link to D. Anne Jones’ book, go to facetofacefineart.org.)

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